I am wondering if any of my colleagues out there have used the Collins Writing Program. I went to a workshop on the Collins Writing Program led by Henry Dembowski last November, and I was really excited by it. I didn’t want to implement something completely new after I’d already established a writing program last year (though in retrospect, I probably should have), so I didn’t try everything I learned. I will write more on that later, as I’m implementing the program this year.
One of the most useful things I learned was a great way to create a graphic organizer for compare and contrast writing. We have all given our students copies of Venn diagrams. I always disliked the fact that the middle portion where the circles overlap doesn’t have much room, which forces students either to cram information in the space or to leave off points of comparison. Henry taught us how to make a more effective comparison/contrast graphic organizer.
- Take a piece of paper.
- Fold it in half lengthwise, but do not crease.
- Pinch the paper in the middle and crease only up to the top.
- Now fold the paper in half the other way (top to bottom) and crease.
- Your paper should look like this.
- Now fold the bottom of the paper up so that it meets the middle and crease.
- You’re done folding. Your paper should look like this:
Please excuse my rough drawings! Anyway, you have two columns and two rows underneath. Label the first column with the first item you want to compare and contrast. Label the second column with the second item. Label the first row underneath the columns “Similarities” and label the second row “Differences.”
Students should write down everything they noticed about Item 1 in the first column; what students write depends on what your subject matter is. If you’re comparing and contrasting two poems, students might list literary devices, theme, etc. If they are comparing and contrasting two versions of a Shakespeare film, they might write what they noticed about costumes, lighting, set design, camera angles, etc. In the second column, they do the same for Item 2.
In the similarities row, they should write down everything they noticed about the two that was similar. In the differences row, they should write down the differences between the two items. When they are finished, they basically have all the prewriting they need to write a comparison/contrast essay.